I’m a Mother, Too

I think it’s time to chime in on the “teachers paid based on students’ test scores” issue. I think others have stated my opinions clearly when it comes to how I want to be treated as a teacher. Evaluations should be fair, tests don’t measure the whole picture, and the testing culture is bad for our kids. 

But I’m also a parent. My daughter is going into kindergarten next year. That means she’s about to enter into the testing culture. She’s about to become a statistic in someone’s computer or on someones data wall. She will be an entry onto numerous Excel files. She will be pretested, tested, remediated and re-tested until they are satisfied that her numbers will be good enough. And if she should score high the first time…well then she won’t really be an issue at all. The energy will be spent on those kids who need to prepare for the test.

I’m positive that her teacher won’t feel this way. I know (or hope, at least) that she will be at a school that doesn’t feel this way. I pray that her teacher will fight the system. I want her to realize that science is about understanding the world, that math is about making meaning of chaos, that history and social studies are about understanding where we came from and where we are now, that writing is about uncovering what lies in wait in one’s mind and heart, and that reading is the key to all of this.

I hope her teacher and her teacher’s administrators recognize her as an individual and not as a machine data is imputed into and test scores come out. But even if they do, I’m not sure it matters.

Schools today are in a hard spot. I know the teachers and administrators at the school I work at are trying hard to balance the needs of the students as individuals vs. the students as evidence. Overall, they do a good job at it, too.  I work in a district that values its teachers as professionals. But our state is now considering making some of our pay based on the test scores of our kids. That means my kids at work NEED to do well, or my kids at home suffer. That makes the decision to fight the testing culture a harder one to make.

I hope my daughter’s teacher doesn’t feel this way.

I don’t mind the tests, I mind the weight we put on them and the way they are used them as weapons against schools, teachers, and kids. I mind when our politicians tie the hands of administrators who are trying to create strong schools. I mind how it warps the beauty of our disciplines into something that can be marked on a bubble sheet or fit into a box. I mind how the concerns of parents who think like me are ignored. I want more for my child that my president or my congressmen think she is worth.

But most of all, I mind how it has made me feel about sending my daughter to school next year.

So I fight the tests. I avoid the workbooks. I use the standards as starting points, but worry more about getting my kids involved in what it means to be a reader and a writer. I look for reading that will interest them, not what might be on the test. I have them write constantly instead of bubble. I don’t talk about question types until right before the test.

And I’m sending this posting to my congressmen who are debating the budget as we speak.

I’m fighting not just because I’m a teacher. I’m fighting because I’m a mother, too.

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